A recent study from the Harvard School of Public Health and Northeastern University found that a number of mass shootings in America has tripled since 2011. From January 1, 2015- to October 23,2015, alone there were 53 school shootings in America that resulted in 31 deaths and over 72 injuries.
The rate of mass school shootings is rapidly climbing. The facts are plain and simple. Whether you are a staunch right wing conservative-card holding NRA member, an ultra left wing liberal who is 100% anti-gun, or somewhere in between it does not matter.
Political opinions and partisan agendas do not matter at this point.
Feeling the undying need to stand by your second amendment right to bear arms does not matter.
What matters is the safety and peace of mind of the students, teachers, faculty and staff who are in these schools and on these campuses every day. What matters is the sanctity of education and the notion that school is an open and safe place for learning and growth, not a battleground or safety hazard. What matters are the pleas from parents whose children were murdered at point blank in Columbine, Newtown, Roseburg, and countless other towns, communities, and schools.
I surveyed 50 women from colleges around the country about their perspectives on the uniquely American issue that is mass school shootings.
Here’s what I found:
50% of the women I surveyed said that they actively worry about there being a shooting on their campus.
When asked to rank how safe they feel on campus on a scale from extremely safe, very safe, moderately safe, slightly safe, and not at all safe, 48% of those surveyed said that they felt moderately safe on their campuses. Colleges and universities—this goes out to you—students should be able to confidently say that they feel extremely safe at their schools— moderation does not cut it.
When asked if they thought that there needed to legislative and government level changes, even if it meant infringing on 2nd amendment rights, regarding the access that citizens have to guns… 85% of those surveyed said yes.
When asked if they thought that colleges and universities are doing enough to prevent shootings and prepare students for such events, 64% said that they do not think their schools are doing enough.
Students, colleges and universities, parents, voters, Americans: If you haven’t already come to this conclusion let me take this opportunity to inform you—These numbers and responses should startle you.
The fact is plain and simple: Students should not be afraid to go to school for fear of being murdered. Is that rocket science? No. But apparently, The United States of America and American schools cannot get a handle on this concept. So why is nothing being done? Well, that’s the kicker. That’s when you— the students— step in.
When asked if they would attend a 1-hour training at their school or university about preventing on campus violence and information about mass shootings (if such a course was offered) 75% of students surveyed said yes. Think about that for a minute– would college students offer up their free time to sit in a lecture about campus safety unless it was a really urgent and pressing issue? The answer is no.
I spoke with Molly Smith, a senior at Gonzaga University about the myriad concerns she has about her safety on campus as well as the fears she has about mass shootings.”I think that of all the places that I go in my life, the place I feel least safe is on campus.” Smith explained.
“These shootings feed into the American fascination with violence and masculine favoring within American society…there is a lot more leniency and celebration when it comes to the use of violent weapons in our country than there is in most developed nations and media that is targeted at young men is centered around dominance, violence as a form of control and physical strength.”
Smith pinpointed other cultural phenomenon that make school shootings uniquely American, as well as ways that students can take action to implement change on their universities. “There is a lot of movement that can come from student coalition. If a student collective or club was formed that would make a huge difference. Students have a lot of power to effect things with their voice.”
Another Gonzaga senior, Sami Loy, echoed Smith’s sentiments about the responsibility that students have to bring attention to this issue. “Increasing knowledge and awareness about the issue is the biggest part of it…Increasing the amount of information that people have about guns and mental health is where we need to start.”
Colleges, Universities: WAKE UP. Your students are afraid to go to school. Your students are telling you that there is a life and death issue at hand that they are willing to learn about if it means preventing another tragedy and more broken-hearted families, friends and communities. Spread awareness about your campus gun policies. Share information about mental illness and campus resources available. Open your eyes.
Students: Here’s my advice. Talk to your schools. Talk to your friends. Talk to your teachers. Talk to your administrators. Force your school to pay attention because as dismal and depressing as it is to say, these conversations could be the difference between life and death. Tell your school that you are worried about campus shootings and ask what plans they have in place in case such an event were to arise. Make it clear that you are unwilling to be passive and that you are not okay becoming another statistic and news blurb about how awful school shootings are and about how gun control needs to be re-evaluated. Force people to listen to you.
As President Obama said in Newtown, Connecticut after the shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School:
“We can’t tolerate this anymore. These tragedies must end. And to end them, we must change… No single law — no set of laws can eliminate evil from the world, or prevent every senseless act of violence in our society. But that can’t be an excuse for inaction. Surely, we can do better than this. If there is even one step we can take to save another child, or another parent, or another town, from the grief that has visited Tucson, and Aurora, and Oak Creek, and Newtown, and communities from Columbine to Blacksburg before that — then surely we have an obligation to try.”